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During these rather insane times due to the risks from the Coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 disease, businesses are turning to web tools to communicate and host meetings. For some like me, this has been a common work strategy for over 20 years already. So, the adoption of these web tools is easy and comfortable. However, for many others, perhaps the majority of displaced workers, these web tools are all new and perplexing. They are causing stress and without the support of colleagues, workers feel even more isolated and alone.

To host a successful meeting with your work team, you want to follow these eight steps:

  1. Prepare for the meeting in advance of it happening, just as you would for a face to face meeting
  2. Have meeting guidelines so the team understands how to act properly online
  3. Create an agenda for the meeting
  4. The first slide should establish the agenda and remind the team of the protocols for interacting in the meeting
  5. Provide the meeting participants with handouts or access to the presentations for review
  6. Have a chat channel open for Q&A and for team collaboration
  7. Record the meeting for later review or for staff who missed the meeting for them to catch up
  8. Run the meeting to a schedule, one that starts and ends on time and is brief and on point

For most business people, these steps are pretty common and recognized. But what should we do now in light of the COVID-19 disease? What extra or special steps should we add to the list today?

Use the telephone more

Since most employees are now undergoing social distancing, they are seriously isolated from each other. For some introverts, this is not a big deal. However, for most extroverts, this isolation can be very challenging on a deeply personal level. So, ask your team to shift their normal communications to the telephone. Make better and richer human contact. Talk to people, Interact. Do not hide behind text messages or emails. By talking on the telephone one on one or in small groups, people feel more connected and the stress of isolation is reduced.

Use your video cameras

When hosting a web meeting, turn on your video cameras. Let others see you and you can see others too. Seeing your friends and colleagues warms the heart and helps to make these interactions more engaging and less sterile.

Be casual, but with an agenda

Avoid being all business in these web meetings. Enjoy a few sidebar topics and discuss the Coronavirus adventure that your team is facing. Share ideas of how to cope in these challenging times. What are others eating? How and where are they buying food and supplies? How are they getting in their exercise? How are they entertaining the kids and dealing with parents and relatives? By planning in some unstructured time into a normally structured meeting agenda is smart. It decompresses the stress and allows team members new to the process to be more relaxed and open. Of course, still have an agenda and follow it so people know what to expect, but put in a placeholder for these important casual conversations. It will help the team to learn this new approach and free them to share their ideas. Give the unstructured time its own heading on the agenda, have fun with it, call it something like “Water-cooler Chat”, or “Tips for Surviving your Kids”.

Give permission

For many, working from home can be daunting. Their work life is now intermixed with their home life. They are struggling to find a balance; the lines are now blurred. They do not know what to expect. So, talk about this issue. Give them time to find comfort with this problem and the freedom to break from work tasks to deal with family concerns. In these hard times, we need to allow a level of independence for the team to deal with their own problems as they arise and not fear getting fired if they are have struggles with this new work paradigm.

Live, Learn, Adapt

This is a new time with new problems that most have never seen before so it demands new solutions. These solutions do not always appear without some effort and agility to refine and adapt to the changes. Allow some room for failure. Taking the time to discuss ideas and approaches to these problems can bring the team together to resolve the issues together. While we are all so far apart, now in the time to come together.

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.

He is a business and technology consultant. A recent contract was with Wirepas from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.